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COLLAGE of experiences

Samir Mondal's collection of paintings is on show at Amethyst till November 22


"I DON'T see change as a threat. I see the coming together of disparate things as confluence." Samir Mondal.

Despite changes in technology and advancement in the techniques of art, Samir Mondal, a Mumbai-based artist, continues to mediate exclusively through watercolour — a medium that challenges the artist, is fluidly sublime, allows versatility in creating accretion of tones. Its manipulation reflects the dynamism and proficiency of the artist handling it. And all these qualities speak eloquently of Samir's works.

Samir's roots can be traced to a small and remote village in West Bengal where he grew up. It was the ubiquitous Ganges that proved to be his dominant source of inspiration, attracting and indulging him to work in this medium. The pointed question is, in what way, can a river influence the visual sensibility of an impressionable young mind. It was the element of water.

This element had inspired the Impressionists to create timeless images of transient and evanescent portraits of light as it danced on the water creating luminous and star-like spangled effects in broad daylight. But in the instance of Samir, water became the medium of his technique, which he deftly and dexterously handles as a master craftsman. His guru Gopal Ghosh, whose pedagogy pushed him to experience the plain air effects in direct contact with Nature, further reinforced the inspiration to work in watercolour medium.


The subject matter, which Samir tackles in this exhibition titled "Confluences" is broadly defined from portraits to still life, animal studies, vignettes of urban living, and the metro signboards The works reveal not the rich narrative of the meeting of three rivers with a sacred slant; rather Samir fluently through his paintings is extending this metonymy to collage the diverse experiences of life today in a metropolis like Mumbai. His watercolours have a wide range and he speaks in a language that is postmodernist. His repertoire and visual vocabulary are derivatives of the sight and sound of the culture in which he is ingrained. Hence, it is not surprising to find in his watercolours, montages of posters, magazines, advertisements, graffiti, and imagery related to huge hoardings that scream daily at the individual. Samir metaphorically is reinforcing the prevalent materialism that is the guiding spirit of the present techno savvy world.

If one has to attain moksha, the didactic lesson is projected through the huge hoardings that seemingly provide the material fodder ironically. This pastiche conveyed strongly through his paintings reflects upon the superficiality of life in general and particularly for Samir, who negotiates his creative energies through the difficult medium of watercolours to clarify his ideology, which is living and experiencing the life in all its manifold avatars.

Samir's dramatic works are orchestrated so carefully that they do not descend into sheer abstractions. He demonstrates a balance between spontaneity and thorough knowledge of the painting tradition; and his own experimentations that gives his pictures artistic strength. The viewer can appreciate the signs of bravura performance with colour-loaded brush expressively choreographed on the paper.

Samir Mondal graduated from the Govenment College of Arts, Kolkata in 1975 with a degree in painting and a predilection for the medium of watercolour that is marked by his signature brushwork. His passion for the medium is manifested when he claims, "climatic moments and drama of water colour paintings are similar to theatre or musical performance".

The exhibition is on at Amethyst, Jeypore Colony, till November 22.

ASHRAFI S. BHAGAT

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